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"Dude, this ain't Macallan."

Do you ever just know? I was at an Irish Pub tonight and after a meal at the bar I ordered a Macallan 12yr. I ordered it neat. I took a sip and it stung me like a rattler. I asked the bartender for a side of rocks and dropped in a cube. It still stung me. At first I thought maybe I'd lost my Scotch whiskey "chops". But Macallan 12yr is aged in Sherry casks which imparts (among other things) a bouncy, rubbery mouthfeel which was virtually absent from what I was drinking. I told the bartender "Dude, this ain't Macallan". He assured me that it was indeed Macallan (surprise). I paid my bill which included the Scotch and chalked it up to experience.
Do you ever just know that what you are drinking isn't the real deal? What can really be done about it? How common is it do you think?

Thanks.

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  1. A good bartender will take it back and give you something else. But, then again, a good bartender won't refill bottles. This is a very distressing, not to mention illegal, practice. Many customers who drink their whiskey mixed probably wouldn't notice which makes the practice even more heinous

    6 Replies
    1. re: chazzerking

      My wife and I know what basic Tanqueray gin tastes like because we drink it at home on a regular basis. Dining out, we order Tanqueray gin martinis, straight up, all gin, no vermouth, no lemon, olives on the side please. We have ordered them in restaurants all over the world and sorry to report that at least 50% of the time, we are not served Tanqueray-- but something else. We have gone through all the "we would never do anything like that," "the shaker must have been dirty" and "I saw the bartender open a fresh bottle" denials. Occasionally, they return with the real mccoy, but the fact is, we know what the drink is supposed to taste like and there is an enormous amount of lying and cheating involving that little green bottle.

      1. re: rshazam

        Question: Why do you order a martini when you're just asking for a straight up gin? That's kinda like asking for a "grilled cheese but hold the cheese" when you should be asking for "toast".

        1. re: jgg13

          this is a bartenders nightmare. Someone who knows the taste of something so clearly and then instead of asking for it, asks for a mixed drink. A Martini has an agent that changes the taste of the initial ingredient. If you only want the gin, ask for it up and chilled. Great advice jgg.

        2. re: rshazam

          I'm thinking that if it happens "at least 50% of the time", it might actually be you. There's no way more than half the bars in the world (you've been at) switch out the booze. It just doesn't happen much at all.

          I suggest taking the other posters' advice and order your drink more accurately.

        3. re: chazzerking

          "But, then again, a good bartender won't refill bottles."

          I personally know a bartender who makes $2k+ a weekend at a trendy bar on the Sunset strip... he has full liberty to serve cheap stuff & ring it up as the good stuff, refill bottles etc., and pocket 50% of the difference... the one snag is that he has full responsibility for inventory.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I know a couple bartenders (and an owner) that once fell into that category. Greed (and collusion) is what drove them out of business.

        4. The original comment has been removed
          1. MIght it have been the cask strength?

            1. A similar thing happend to me in New York (not NYC.) Ordered a Talkisker, neat, after dinner. What showed up was definitely a blend. Not too difficult not to recognize the smoke in Talisker. Server (who didn't speak much English) took it back and then brought out the Talisker bottle for a new pour. That was better!

              2 Replies
              1. re: dogbreath

                Interesting - I'm having a zip of Talisker now and boy, I don't know how anyone can try to fake that. The smoke is so pronounced. Maybe you have to know your restaurants.

                1. re: deepo

                  It's a one of a kind taste. Almost like smokey salty bacon. I love it.

              2. Had a friend who ordered a Baileys, the server goes to the bar to get his drink, the Baileys bottle is evidently empty as the bartender shakes the bottle at the manager. Manger returns to the bar with a bottle of Emmetts and he SAW the manager not so discretely pouring the Emmetts into the Baileys bottle. Bartender pours him a drink from the tainted Baileys bottle. The server brings his drink and he refuses it on the grounds that it isn't Baileys. The server insists it's Baileys, gets the manager at my friends request who initially denies filling the Baileys bottle with Emmetts. Manager finally admits what she had done saying "it doesn't matter they are the same product anyway". That restaurant (a rather tony place) lost my friends business as well as the business of everyone he knows. What else were they switching?

                14 Replies
                1. re: kchasky

                  Can you please tell me in what city/state this happened? I know people who've worked in some pretty divey bars in Manhattan and this just isn't something that I've ever heard of. I wonder if this is more of a regional issue or maybe I'm just being naive.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    This was in a Chicago restaurant, midscale place but seemingly the kind of place you wouldn't expect it to happen. I think it has more to do with the integrity of the owner than the geographic location.

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      I don't mean to sound judgmental, but what dives have you been hanging out in?

                      By the way, this happened to me in Manhattan (at a surprisingly upscale Irish pub in LOWER, LOWER Manhattan [there aren't that many that far south, you figure it out]. The bartender hailed the bar-back and directed him to get another bottle.

                      The bar-back disappeared and reappeared several minutes later. The first warning sign was that the bottle was not behind the bar (this was an Irish whiskey in an Irish bar, folks).

                      The second? The bottle did not reappear with a sealed cap. Can you say "cheap substitute filled out of customer sight?"

                      And it goes without saying, if they're switching the hard stuff, they're switching the kegs too. No, not Coors Light for Guinness, but how about Stella for Boddington's (yes, this happened to me too).

                      1. re: NYChristopher

                        The same night that I told the bartender "[d]ude this ain't Macallan", I also had a Boddington's from the tap. It was completely clear and had no cascade to it as it usually does. I figured that it just wasn't on nitrogen but could it have been something else . . .

                        1. re: NYChristopher

                          James Joyce would not be pleased. That bar can probably switch things allthe time considering the financial crowd that goes there that order drinks for name value alone

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            Just re-reading this thread and wanted to say: If I still lived in New York, I would happily buy you a round, well done!

                          2. re: NYChristopher

                            Given that Stella and Boddingtons are completely different styles (one is a lager while the other is a bitter), this seems far-fetched to me. Also, I find it funny that Boddie's is considered good beer in America, just because it's an import. In England it's the cheap crap. Stella is so much better, so if that happened to you, then you got a deal because it's more expensive :)

                            1. re: berbadeerface

                              How is Stella regarded in it's home country of Belgium?

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Not very highly, given the availability of diverse, wonderful beer. It's still much better than Boddingtons, though.

                                Oh, and it's "its", not "it's". ;)

                                Interestingly, I just did some research and found that the stuff Boddingtons makes for export has a higher alcohol content than the stuff kept at home. I wonder if it tastes any better...shall have to give it a try!

                                1. re: berbadeerface

                                  I 2nd that motion... Boddington is one of the worst beers I have tasted.

                              2. re: berbadeerface

                                Outside of England (and recently here ni the US due to heavy marketing) I haven't seen anyone consider Stella to be anything beyond swill.

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  Don't get me wrong - I would choose many other beers before Stella. But I would still put Belgian "swill", as you put it, above the abomination that has hit my lips the few times in my life I've ordered a Boddingtons. Stella doesn't taste BAD, per se, it's just that it has no soul. It's mass-produced beer. Boddie's tastes baaaad...

                                  1. re: berbadeerface

                                    Different strokes for different folks. Frankly, I am not a huge fan of most Belgian beers ... I tend to drink German more often (though really, I drink more domestic than anything else).

                            2. re: KTinNYC

                              In Manhattan, even in a "divey" bar -- if it's crowded consistently -- a good bartender and a good manager know that they better serve customers' call brands or they'll be outta business before you know it. It's also a big, time-consuming hassle to refill bottles, and it becomes exponentially more difficult the more booze a place goes through. It's just not worth the extra few bucks a bottle. It's just good business to serve what the customer calls for.

                              About receiving "refill" drinks: My palate is usually very sensitive to differences in spirits, except for about a half hour after I have coffee... then, all bets are off. So if I'm having a drink after dinner, unless it's booze we're putting in the coffee, I usually wait. For this reason, I've never said anything when I've thought that the cognac I ordered *wasn't* the cognac I was brought. Hasn't happened much.

                              The one time I got stuck with rotgut and they wanted to charge me for Ketel One was peculiar. I had just started dating my wife, and it was at the restaurant where she was a partner. I took one sip of my "Ketel and tonic" and it was *gasp* -- gin. Cheap gin. I told my wife-to-be that the manager had made me a gin and tonic and she said to just drink it so as to save face for the manager, who'd poured from the wrong bottle. Well, after our lunch, I decided to have another drink. So I sat at the bar. And *watched* this guy pour from a Ketel One bottle into my glass. Again it was awful gin. I *had* to say something. Now, this manager didn't drink anything - ever. He knew *nothing* of the differences between spirits. I asked him how long he'd been filling expensive bottles with cheap stuff. He seemed astonished - and admitted to me that I'd caught him. He was amazed, he thought that I had some sort of silver palate because I could taste the difference between vodkas, when they'd been mixed with cheap tonic water. I told him no, I don't think I'd be capable of *that,* but that he'd made it a lot easier for me by putting *gin* in the Ketel One bottle. It turns out that this creep had been *regularly* putting cheap vodka in the expensive vodka bottles. Now, English is his second language, and he's never been very good at paying any concentration to what he's doing. He failed to check the labels of the bottles of cheap stuff he was re-filling with. It turns out that that day, in that restaurant, there were lovely bottles from Absolut, Stolichnaya, Skyye, etc. -- and they were all filled with cheap gin. My wife told the other partners and they let this guy have it. He'd single-handedly caused the complete demise of their beverage program because of this stuff. It took a long time after we took over to re-establish the public's trust of the bar program there.